Chitpur Local Photowalk
A Photowalk along Chitpur Road, Kolkata (Calcutta)
Bonga Local, Gede Local, Rangahat Local are all local trains originating from the Sealdah Station in Kolkata (Calcutta). There is no Chitpur Local and it is quiet obvious as Chitpur is a neighborhood located within Kolkata (Calcutta).
Chitpur Local is a name of a project aimed at reviving the Chitpur area, which is considered as the one oldest neighborhood of Kolkata (Calcutta).
Chitpur Road once connected the Chiteswari Temple, presently in Kumartuli area, to the European town of Calcutta, present day Lalbazar. It is considered as one of Calcutta’s oldest road.
Today it is known as Rabindra Sarani, after Rabindranath Thakur, the most illustrious residence of the street (sarani means street in Bengali).
The Chitpur locality is the hub of Jatra (traditional thearte), print making & publishing, jewellery making and several other cultural activities.
The Chitpur Local aims at bringing together the artists, local students, teachers, shop owners and residents and recreate the long forgotten heritage.
The Chitpur Local was centred around the historic Oriental Seminary School. There were several activities including jatras, memory games and even a pop – up museum.
Chitpur Photo Walk held on 19th and 20th March 2015 and was conducted by Calcutta Walks, who also happens to support this blog.
I joined the walk on 20th March Saturday. The walk was scheduled from Lalbazar at 7:00 am. I reached about five minutes early to find a crowd of more than 40 people.
Iftekhar Ahsan (popularly known as Ifte) of Calcutta Walks was already there and there were quite a few familiar faces. There were Atanu da and Tanayesh from my old photography club Kolkata Weekend Shoots (KWS), photographer Rahul, cycling enthusiast Gautam, fellow blogger Dipanjan, Jewish resident of Calcutta Jeal Siliman, colleague Rupa and even my friends wife Parama.
Strangely many of the other participants knew me and wer familiar with my blog, it was really a pleasant surprise on a spring Sunday morning.
As usual Calcutta Walks had its tricks up its sleeve and the walk started from the forbidden Lalbazar, the head quarters of Kolkata Police.
During the early 18th century at the location of Lalbazar stood the Harmonic Tavern. Today the Harmonic Lounge is located on the third floor of the building that houses the traffic wing of the city police.
The Harmonic Lounge is a small museum with a rare collection of vintage photographs of Calcutta (Kolkata).
It also contains a model of a traffic sergeant riding his bike and a sketch of old Calcutta (Kolkata).
Strangely the sketch shows the St. Anne’s Church, Old Fort William and the Calcutta Black Hole Memorial together!!!
It was soon time to hit the Chitpur Road, with the photographers trying their hand all sorts of photography. Street photography was the most preferred choice but sadly it is never my cup of tea.
Ifte took a detour from the Chitpur Road and headed for the Chinese Breakfast at Tiretta Bazar, Old Chinatown.
A short stop at Chinese provision stores of Hap Hing and a short breakfast break we were back again at the Chitpur Road, only to take another diversion into Ezra Street.
We walked past a Jain Dhramashala and took a zig – zag route past the electric shops to the abandoned Parsi Fire Temple (Kolkata still has an active Parsi Fire Temple).
Known as the Rustomjee Cowasajee Aghari Fire Temple, it has been abandoned long ago and has been lying in utter neglect for decades. Now the West Bengal Tourism plans to renovate it and turn it into a tourist attraction.
It was back to Chitpur Road again, where we stopped for a mawa loddoo break at M. E. Karodia Sweets, located at the crossing of Chitpur Road and Canning Street.
At Nakhoda Masjid, Chitpur Road’s most iconic landmark, Ifte produced his trump card. We made our way, through a dark staircase, to the terrace of the building opposite the Nakhoda Masjid for a grand view of the mosque.
We also got introduced to the owner of the house Sohail Bhai, owner of the nearby Royal India Hotel, famous for its legendary biriyani.
Next to the Nakhoda Masjid is the Salim Manzil, the residence of the famous singer and courtesan Gauhar Jaan.
After the Nakhoda Masjid most of the walkers decided to take a tram to Oriental Seminary School, which was the hub of all activities of Chitpur Local.
A few of us, including fellow blogger Deepanjan, decided to walk all the way to the Oriental Seminary School. I always avoid big group during my exploration of the city and preferred to do it myself or with a few like minded people, and Deepanjan has always been a great company.
Depanjan and I continued northwards along the Chitpur Road walking past the Ghoriwala Mullickbari, because of the clock atop the central pediment.
It also happens to be the residence of my school friend Indraneel Mullick. It was only a few months ago we celebrated his 40th birthday in this grand building. The Ghoriwala Mullickbari contains a unique collection of artifacts and antiques from all corners of the globe.
We walked passed the Lohia Matrisadan and past the past the almost obliterate sign board of K C Das Ltd., claiming to be the inventor of Rosomalai.
Soon our topic of discussion changed to sweets and narrowed down to the comparison between Marawari and Bengali sweets.
We soon made our way to the famous Makhalal Das sweet shop. Located inside the not so new Natun Bazar, the shop still has a vintage look.
There are no show case and sweets are displaced on a large thala and covered with cellophane paper.
We tried our hands on the famous mango sandesh, flavoured by a mixture of aam ada and alphonso mangoes.
Although Makahnlal still poses the vintage look but its sweets have evolved with time and we tried out the latest innovation butterscotch monohara and the mango dai. With fresh energy we continued with the rest of the walk to the Oriental Seminary School.
Soon both sides of the Chitpur roads were lined with jatra (traditional theatre) posters but it was still 10 am and the offices were yet to open their shutters. On the other hand the printing presses, another heritage of Chitpur, were in full operation.
We met our group, who had already finished and ready to leave, in front of the Oriental Seminary. Bidding farewell to them we headed for the Garanhata lane, which housed the memory game and the pop up museum.
The memory game consisted of identifying pictures printed on long stretch of paper and was an insight into the printing technology. The pop up museum contained old cameras, printing blocks and jewelery designs, molds and dyes.
Finally Deepanjan and I made it to the compound of Oriental Seminary School past a gate with yellow chits of paper narrating the most memorable experience of the students and ex-students.
Oriental Seminar, the alma mater of Rabindranath Thakur, also housed several events but all were scheduled for evening. We decide to explore the school and as I looked up the red walls of the school building a great surprise awaited me.
Its a plaque dedicated to, one of the ex students of the school, Jatindra Nath Mukherjee. Jatindra Nath Mukherjee joined Bangal Ambulance Crops in 1914 and was killed in the Battle of Ctesiphon in Mesopotamia, during the World War I (WWI).
For the last couple of years I have been combing the city for WWI memorials and plaques and this was totally unknown to me. It was a great way to end the amazing Chitpur Local Photowalk.
Note: The file photos used in this blog post were not shot during the Chitpur Local Photowalk